Iranian official says “very critical” point reached, with negotiations in Geneva set to continue for third day.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said his country will not give up the right to enriching uranium, in his first comments since talks broke down with world powers over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Rouhani said on Sunday that his nation had acted rationally and tactfully during three days of nuclear negotiations in Geneva, which concluded on Saturday without agreement.
“We have said to the negotiating sides that we will not answer to any threat, sanction, humiliation or discrimination. The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority,” he told the National Assembly, reported by the ISNA news agency.
His speech came a day after France apparently stopped a deal because it felt Iranian concessions were not sufficient to relax sanctions. According to reports, France wanted a shutdown of enrichment facilities, something Iran was not prepared to concede.
“For us there are red lines that cannot be crossed,” Rouhani said in his Sunday speech. “National interests are our red lines that include our rights under the framework of international regulations and enrichment in Iran.”
Diplomats from the P5+1 group of world powers – US, UK, France, China, Russia, Germany and the EU – were searching for a preliminary agreement that would restrain Iran’s nuclear programme and make it more transparent for UN anti-proliferation inspectors.
The France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, raised objections to a draft to which his country had previously agreed.
Fabius spoke of “several points that … we’re not satisfied with compared to the initial text,” telling France-Inter Radio his nation did not want to be part of a “con game”.
Talks will resume on November 20 but will involve lower-level officials.
Israel weighs in
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Sunday that the deal France rejected was “bad and dangerous”.
“Not just for us but for world peace. The deal at once lifts the pressure of sanctions which have taken years to put in place, and leaves Iran with its nuclear and enrichment capabilities intact. Not one centrifuge is to be dismantled.
“We need a good deal – not a bad one; one that narrows or completely dismantles Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon. We shall do everything in our power to persuade the leaders not to reach a bad deal.”
Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows it to enrich uranium for use in civilian reactors, but has been found to have broken compliance.
Western powers remain concerned that Iran is continuing to amass enriched uranium to use in a nuclear bomb. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said Washington remained “determined” to make certain Iran did not acquire a nuclear weapon.
Iran’s economy has been badly damaged by sanctions imposed by Western powers over its nuclear programme, which have led to high inflation, poor export markets and a double-digit unemployment rate.
US politicians are currently preparing a new package of sanctions against Tehran, the content of which will be debated in Congress in the coming week.